Leading From Behind
Many of us have been struggling to make sense of Barack Obama’s erratic foreign policy. He says he doesn’t want to fight “dumb wars” and then goes and acts stupid in Libya. He constantly seems to be working to undermine the United States’ role in the world and bows to every foreign crowned head except Queen Elizabeth II, who he gives an iPod. He returns the Churchill bust. He bends over backwards to kiss up to Hu Jintao. It makes you wonder.Well, wonder no long. Over at the New Yorker, Ryan Lizza sums up the erratic foreign policy of Barack Obama and it is worse that you or either imagined.In a very long piece, we are shown an adult Hillary Clinton having to prod Barack Obama who flips between realism and idealism hoping that if he flips back and forth he can blur the two. Ultimately, you can figure out all you need to know from a Presidential advisor who describes Barack Obama’s foreign policy as “leading from behind.” Seriously. Leading from behind is premised on two thoughts within Barack Obama’s head:(1) We have been replaced on the world stage by China as the pre-eminent super power; and, (2) Everyone else hates us.To sum it up, Barack Obama’s foreign policy is based on the belief that we have surrendered or had taken from us our leadership role in the world. He’s operating intentionally as a failure.
Obama may be moving toward something resembling a doctrine. One of his advisers described the President’s actions in Libya as “leading from behind.” That’s not a slogan designed for signs at the 2012 Democratic Convention, but it does accurately describe the balance that Obama now seems to be finding. It’s a different definition of leadership than America is known for, and it comes from two unspoken beliefs: that the relative power of the U.S. is declining, as rivals like China rise, and that the U.S. is reviled in many parts of the world. Pursuing our interests and spreading our ideals thus requires stealth and modesty as well as military strength. “It’s so at odds with the John Wayne expectation for what America is in the world,” the adviser said. “But it’s necessary for shepherding us through this phase.”